Fit in fun on Friday!

Posted August 28th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Fit In Fitness Friday

Keeping your family active is especially challenging as kids go back-to-school. With the pressures of homework and busy schedules, it’s easy to fall into the routine of watching television or playing video games after school.

It’s important that families be active to help reduce stress, maintain a healthy weight and live a more balanced lifestyle. Here are some ideas for keeping you and your family active:

•Play catch (football, baseball, softball, or Frisbee)
•Make chores such as vacuuming, sweeping or raking, your chance to be active
•Go for family walks after meal times
•Limit recreational screen time (television, video games, and computer) to less than 2 hours per day

I recommend scheduling regular times for activity throughout the week so it becomes a habit, rather than an afterthought.

Portion Distortion: My latest News Article

Posted August 25th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

We are portion distorted. That is most of us, despite our best intentions, seriously underestimate how much we are eating. In fact, this is one of the biggest roadblocks to weight loss success that I see in the people I counsel as a registered dietitian.

Restaurants and grocery stores have programmed us to have a “more is better” mentality when it comes to food. Fast food restaurants entice us to super-size our meals for just a few additional cents, and sit-down restaurants serve huge plates stacked high with pasta and enough meat for three people.

Package sizes for individual bottles of soda, salty snack foods and frozen meals have slowly grown bigger over the decades.

But because the only way to maintain long-term weight loss is portion control, we need to know what a true portion should look like.

Simply speaking, a portion is a designated amount of food for one person at one seating – or a serving size. The purpose of a serving size is to give people healthy and appropriate nutrition information and guidelines.

Serving sizes also help to standardize what you see on Nutrition Facts labels and allow government agencies, such as the USDA, to recommend amounts of different types of foods for optimal health and weight control.

One way to determine portion size is to weigh all of your food; however, that is impractical for most of us.

I have found in my experience that the next best thing is to use the following visual tips as guidelines:

- 1 cooked pasta serving (1Ú3 to 1Ú2 cup) = the size of a tennis ball sliced in half.
- 1 meat, poultry or fish serving (2 to 3 ounces) = the size of a deck of cards
- 1 milk or yogurt serving = approximately the size of your fist.
- 1 natural cheese serving (11Ú2 ounces) = 4 dice stacked on top of each other or the average thumb
- 1 serving of fruit = a tennis ball sliced in half. (With whole fruit, a serving is a medium-sized apple, banana, orange, or pear – keep in mind most of what we see in grocery stores is portion distortion. We tend to get large to extra-large varieties. If it’s chopped, cooked or canned, the serving size is one-half cup.)
- 1 serving of grains cooked, such as oatmeal = one-half cup an ice cream scoop.
- 1 serving cold cereal = 3Ú4 to 1 teacup or a fist.

Avoid portion distortion
1. When looking at the Nutrition Facts label on a product, get in the habit of glancing at the serving size (this may be futile; sometimes it’s in grams or another unit that’s not user-friendly) and automatically double or triple the calories, carbs and other nutrients you check to see how it all adds up when you eat more than a single serving.
2. At restaurants, send half your plate back to the kitchen to be put in a doggie bag as soon as you can. It is not rude.
3. Take out your measuring cups and train yourself – using water, dry rice or beans, a deck of cards, ice cream scoop, tennis ball, dice and some Play-Doh – to know what recommended portion sizes look like in your everyday bowls.
4. Train yourself to order only small or kid’s sizes when ordering anything at a restaurant, snack bar, etc.
5. Use a smaller plate when eating at home, and away from home, always leave some food on your plate.

- Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian of Associates in Nutrition in Florida and was recently named president of the Southwest Florida Dietetic Association. Contact her at or AssociatesinNutrition. com.

25 healthy snacks for kids

Posted August 24th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

With back-to-school time here already, I thought I’d share the American Dietetic Association’s list of healthy snacks for kids. They are perfect for after school or on-the-go!  Adults can enjoy them as well!

When a snack attack strikes, refuel with these nutrition-packed snacks. You may need an adult to help with some of these snacks.

1. Peel a banana and dip it in yogurt. Roll in crushed cereal and freeze.
2. Spread celery sticks with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese. Top with raisins. Enjoy your “ants on a log.”
3. Stuff a whole-grain pita pocket with ricotta cheese and Granny Smith apple slices. Add a dash of cinnamon.
4. Mix together ready-to-eat cereal, dried fruit and nuts in a sandwich bag for an on-the-go snack.
5. Smear a scoop of frozen yogurt on two graham crackers and add sliced banana to make a yummy sandwich.
6. Top low-fat vanilla yogurt with crunchy granola and sprinkle with blueberries.
7. Microwave a small baked potato. Top with reduced-fat cheddar cheese and salsa.
8. Make snack kabobs. Put cubes of low-fat cheese and grapes on pretzel sticks.
9. Toast a whole grain waffle and top with low-fat yogurt and sliced peaches.
10. Spread peanut butter on apple slices.
11. Blend low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana for thirty seconds for a delicious smoothie.
12. Make a mini-sandwich with tuna or egg salad on a dinner roll.
13. Sprinkle grated Monterey Jack cheese over a corn tortilla; fold in half and microwave for twenty seconds. Top with salsa.
14. Toss dried cranberries and chopped walnuts in instant oatmeal.
15. Mix together peanut butter and cornflakes in a bowl. Shape into balls and roll in crushed graham crackers.
16. Microwave a cup of tomato or vegetable soup and enjoy with whole grain crackers.
17. Fill a waffle cone with cut-up fruit and top with low-fat vanilla yogurt.
18. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on hot popcorn.
19. Banana Split: Top a banana with low-fat vanilla and strawberry frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with your favorite whole-grain cereal.
20. Sandwich Cut-Outs: Make a sandwich on whole grain bread. Cut out your favorite shape using a big cookie cutter. Eat the fun shape and the edges, too!
21. Spread mustard on a flour tortilla. Top with a slice of turkey or ham, low-fat cheese and lettuce. Then roll it up.
22. Mini Pizza: Toast an English muffin, drizzle with pizza sauce and sprinkle with low-fat mozzarella cheese.
23. Rocky Road: Break a graham cracker into bite-size pieces. Add to low-fat chocolate pudding along with a few miniature marshmallows.
24. Inside-Out Sandwich: Spread mustard on a slice of deli turkey. Wrap around a sesame breadstick.
25. Parfait: Layer vanilla yogurt and mandarin oranges or blueberries in a tall glass. Top with a sprinkle of granola.

Now that you are refueled, take a trip to Planet Power. Play the MyPyramid Blast-Off game at


Fit in fun on Friday

Posted August 21st, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Fit In Fitness Friday

Making weekend plans? Be sure to fit in some fun fitness activities that the whole family can enjoy.

It’s hot, it’s summer, cool off and take a swim! Enjoy a dip in the pool or hit the beach!

Swimming is one of the safest, most effective forms of exercise and recruits all of the major muscle groups. Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking fluids, especially when swimming for extended periods in the heat. Beginning swimmers should be well-supervised and should consider swim lessons by a certified instructor. Check your local colleges and community centers for a list of instructors and locations.

Be safe and be fit with friends and family!

Fuel up with healthy back-to-school breakfast ideas

Posted August 20th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Meal Tips

A better breakfast for better grades? Studies show that students who eat breakfast before starting school had a general increase in math grades and reading scores, increased student attention, reduced nurse visits, and improved behavior. If that’s not incentive, then let’s look at the negatives. Kids who don’t eat breakfast are less able to learn at school, get less iron (an important nutrient) in their diets, and are more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI), which is a sign they may be overweight.

Here are some quick and easy breakfast ideas:

-Pancakes, French toast or waffles (try whole-grain or wheat)
-Cold cereal and milk
-Hot cereal, such as cream of wheat
-Whole-grain toast, bagels or English muffin
-Yogurt with fruit or nuts
-Fruit smoothie (add berries for extra nutrition!)

Make it fun for picky-eaters:
-Breakfast taco (eggs, shredded cheese on whole-wheat tortilla)
-Banana dog (banana with peanut butter and raisins on whole-grain bun)
-Fruit and cream cheese smiley sandwich

The bottom line: Don’t run out the door before fueling up with a healthy breakfast!

Check out my latest News Article on fast food. Good tips for busy lifestyles!

Posted August 18th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

Nutrition: Good food can be had at drive-through window of fast-food joint

Are you always on the go? Do you frequent the drive-through, resigned to make unhealthy eating choices?

What if I told you that some simple planning can go a long way in building healthier eating habits into a busy lifestyle? It really doesn’t have to be complicated or require you to spend long hours preparing meals in your kitchen.

When you know that you are going to be in a car most of the day, you can pack some essentials into a cooler ahead of time, avoiding the need for that fast food fix. Select healthy snacks that will give you an energy boost during the day and prevent you from overeating at meals. A few suggestions are frozen grapes, protein bars, hard-boiled eggs, orange slices, walnuts, sunflower seeds or sliced apples.

For an easy lunch, pack one cup of yogurt, 1 to 2 ounces of low-fat string cheese, a small cucumber, one cup of strawberries and about 40 pretzel sticks.

Don’t forget to bring plenty of water. If you drink water throughout the day instead of soda, you will cut out many empty calories.

What if you forgot to pack lunch (or didn’t have time to grocery shop) and fast food is your only option? Luckily, thanks to an increasing demand from health-conscious customers, more restaurants are offering healthier choices. If you are going to a drive-through, always avoid deep-fried foods and high-calorie sauces.

Here are some better choices that will fill you up without packing on the pounds:

McDonald’s – Asian Salad with grilled chicken, Newman’s Own low-fat balsamic vinaigrette, Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait (no granola) 470 calories, 36 grams protein, 52 grams carbs, 15 grams fat and 5 grams fiber.

Wendy’s – Mandarin Chicken Salad, low-fat honey mustard dressing, low-fat strawberry yogurt (no granola) 420 calories, 29 grams protein, 66 grams carbs, 6.5 grams fat and 3 grams fiber.

Arby’s – Chicken Fillet Sandwich (grilled, hold the mayo), fruit cup. 344 calories, 31 grams protein, 45 grams carbs, 5.5 grams fat and 3 grams fiber.

Burger King – BK Veggie Burger (hold the mayo and cheese) and Mott’s strawberry flavored apple sauce. 430 calories, 23 grams protein, 69 grams carbs, 8 grams fat and 7 grams fiber.

Pizza Hut – 2 slices 12″ Fit ‘N Delicious Pizza-diced chicken, red onion and green pepper. 340 calories, 18 grams protein, 46 grams carbs, 10 grams fat and 2 grams fiber.

Subway – Turkey Breast 6-inch Sandwich, Veggie Delite Salad, fat-free dressing. 375 calories, 22 grams protein, 65 grams carbs, 5.5 grams fat and 7 grams fiber.

Chick-fil-A – Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich, large fruit cup – 370 calories, 29 grams protein, 59 grams carbs, 3.5 grams fat and 6 grams fiber.

All of the sandwiches at Chick-fil-A come in below the 500-calorie mark, but the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich is the lowest in calories at 270.

Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers. She has been practicing for 18 years and was recently named president of the Southwest Florida Dietetic Association. Continue to read her series Tuesdays.

Contact her at AssociatesinNutrition .com,, or call 275-2132.

August monthly myth: All fats are bad

Posted August 12th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Monthly Myths

Every month, I’ll be posting nutrition myths and giving you the skinny on the facts. This month, it’s the long-held nutrition myth that all fats are bad. But the fact is that we all need fat. Fats aid nutrient absorption and nerve transmission, and they help to maintain cell membrane integrity – to name just a few of their useful purposes. However, when consumed in excessive amounts, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancers.  Not all fats are created equal. Some fats can actually help promote good health, while others increase the risk for heart disease. The key is to replace bad fats (saturated fats and trans fats) with good fats (monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats).    Click here for more information: Be sure to visit for more information on nutrition and healthy living.

New column in The News-Press

Posted August 12th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

My column in The News-Press began running today! Check it out at